The crew rode back to the naval base, and Sable Addix, from the wedding, after giving Aali and Emkir their personal gifts. As the jokes continued, Aiden pulled the dart from his forehead to put in his pocket and humorlessly told Emkir he wasn't getting that one back. Mikah told Emkir, "I want you to read that book!" in an emphatic tone. As this gave way to ripping into the gifts from other attendees, Emkir greedily hoped for a big score. Inger quickly put a fire hose on that by telling them all what she'd learned while in the gathering before the wedding.
Still, there was some anticipation as they rode and watched. Eventually, the hard cash gifts added up to a tidy Cr 210,000! Aali and Emkir said they wanted to share some of their wedding gifts with the ship. When Mikah asked what that meant, Emkir said they planned to give ten percent of what they'd been given to the ship's funds. While the Admiral clearly meant the KCr 210 in monetary gifts, Aiden missed the mark and asked in a confused tone, "How do you give ten percent of a blender?" Aali acerbically commented, "The ship's galley can have the blender", not disguising her lack of any amusement at the obvious gag gift.
Added to that, they received several interesting material gifts. From the Grand Duchess Delphine, they received the gift of a fiefdom in the capital city of the Mora system. This "fiefdom" was actually the ability to make personal use of a suite of rooms in a very elegant and noted housing venue with a private beach and all the amenities. The gift came with a servant staff devoted to the couple and their guests when in-residence. Emkir set that aside as he asked about the crew's schedule to see if he and Aali might get a day or two's honeymoon before blasting for the return trip to Rhylanor?
Mikah pointed out that they were already late returning to Rhylanor, and needed to get moving. When there was still a pause after that, she said, "You can have one night, but that would be tonight. So make the best of it." Ms. Vik commented, "Not much of a night" as she looked at her chrono and then asked what time they were planning to leave port the next day? Joking, Mikah bluntly answered, "Six Am!", but she couldn't hold the face and broke out laughing as some actually looked at her in shock. Mikah admitted she was joking and said she wanted to lift at noon.
Once that was said, Emkir considered the "fiefdom" and realized they'd have to drop the crew at the ship first. Then continue to the residence and spend quite some time getting things in order there, as well as meeting and dealing with the servants. And once they did get to the "honeymoon celebrations", they'd have to be up and awake early enough to return to the ship and prepare for a noon-time lift. And they'd have to have gotten enough sleep to be effective at their jobs during launch and entry into jumpspace. This certainly meant making use of the suite was not going to happen.
In hopes, Aali suggested they ask Lord William, who was in-system, how his brother might feel about another day or more's delay? When Mikah considered that, they agreed it was not "just one more day or so" because they were already three days past when they expected to start their return trip. Which prompted some talk of the unrest and building paranoia causing problems mentioned in the news reports from Rhylanor. At that point, Zimzod pointed out that Duke Leonard was dealing with their "bag of shit" at the moment and they couldn't blow him off. With that, Emkir and Aali agreed they should get moving. As they admitted defeat, Rol pointed out they had at least four weeks flight time before they arrived at Rhylanor.
The couple took solace in that, even though Aali would be working a lot to manage the ship's engineering needs. This also led to a number of crude comments about what the couple could do aboard ship. Getting back to the gifts, Emkir joked about the air/raft update and that they didn't have a personal grav vehicle to upgrade. So they gave that to the ship, to upgrade the Hotel California's air/raft. When the others happily reacted to that, Emkir made it clear he felt Lady Mikah, as the ship's captain, had control over that upgrade. For her part, Mikah did not immediately suggest what ideas she had.
The end of that conversation led into a consideration of the practical issues for the trip, as they remembered Arch Duke Norris was no longer paying some of their bills. Lucky for them, they were still covered by Duke Leonard's orders while they were on this operation, so they knew they'd get a boost in priority and free service on the route. Of course, this brought up some hopeful comments that they'd stay on the route after the misjump on the way to the Mora system. They all knew how lucky they'd gotten, emerging where they had, and after so short an extension.
Finally, part of the trip ended as they arrived at Zimzod's resort after 11pm. Zimzod planned to spend his one last night at the resort he'd paid for and then pack his gear and return to the ship the next morning after checking out. Once Zimzod and Shisema returned to his rooms and set everything up for the next morning, she decided to make Zimzod's last night in the Mora system memorable, as she knew she was going back to what was left of her vacation and her life after he left. She also wanted to show him as amazing a time as he'd shown her.
When the others got back to the ship, Emkir and Aali make a bee line right to their stateroom, to take advantage of their "honeymoon hours". The rest of the crew started squaring away what they could, to prepare for the lift the next day. Aiden called the base flight office to make the Navy aware of their plans while Mikah found the remaining pile of Sir Brian's orphaned gear and remembered they'd not dealt everything out yet. Having grabbed his laser carbine and power pack, she announced the rest was up for grabs. Thinking a bit better of that, she grabbed the .45 revolver, 6 speed loaders and 36 rounds ammo for Zimzod.
Aiden took the laser sword and power pack after getting done calling the base. Mikah put Brian's combat armor in the ship's locker for use as "spare" to use for armor repairs or sell if they needed the cash. This brought them to Brian's fairly valuable collection of antique books. This was the closest most of the crew had ever gotten to them, except the time when Zimzod had stolen the collection during the jump out to find the Quasar Viper. The only real ideas of value they had come from when Lord William and his friends came to see the collection while they were in the Rhylanor system.
When Rol mentioned Lord William's interest, they all realized just how valuable the collection could be. There was even a suggestion they reach out to him before launching, but time was too tight and they had no real direct line of contact. Zach spoke up when he saw things come to that. Mikah knew Zimzod would be interested too. Emkir would certainly be interested in the odd language books if he weren't too involved in consummating his marriage at the moment. Mikah wickedly considered seeing if there was enough of a lure there to really get Aali angry? In the end, pissing off your chief engineer was a very bad idea and she figured she'd let those not present know of the decision once they were available and after it had been made.
Zach was also interested, but mostly in the event there was some piece of unreleased data about an artifact. Beyond that, his other interest would be selling the books for a huge reward, which was just the reward Mikah would hope, to fund the crew's ongoing operations. When Inger looked at them, she was curious because some of them were hand made. But she knew her interest in them was very small compared to the others, and the battle wasn't worth even starting.
Eventually, Mikah said they didn't have enough time to deal with them on Mora. So she decided the others could spend the time in transit pouring over the books to their heart's content so long as no damage was done. Once they got to Rhylanor, the decision would be made what to do. A good suggestion was to scan them so they could do anything with the originals. Once the decisions were made, it was time to hit the rack so they could get a good night's sleep before leaving. Except for Zimzod, Aali and Emkir. And despite their activities, Aali was firm that she needed to be up and active from 6am the next day.    Sunday, 261-1112: Squaring Away The Details And Final Boarding
At 6am, alarms went off in Rol's stateroom as well as Aali and Emkir's. While Rol and Emkir both went through their morning routine, Aali rushed hers to get out and working in engineering. And while Aali was feeling the activities of the night before a bit, Emkir was strangely much less rested than she was. As Rol got out into the galley to start working on breakfast, he found Aali already there, finishing a quick meal of her own. They chatted as he started cooking and she finished up. Then Aali moved into engineering and reset Wall-e's task lists schedule to have him assist in prepping the ship up to leave.
As Rol cooked and Aali was finishing her breakfast, alarms rang in Aiden and Mikah's staterooms and they began their morning routines. Shortly after Aali left for engineering, Emkir tried to swagger out of his quarters to grab chow and start his day. But as he sat and talked with Rol, he admitted he was feeling the weight of the night's activities. Rol started adding some ingredients that might help with his "recovery" as Emkir said he had something for the former Marine. Suddenly nervous, due to Emkir's words, Rol watched as the Admiral laid something on the galley counter. Rol saw whatever it was had been hastily wrapped in leftovers, stripped from one of the presents the day before and wondered how concerned he needed to be?
Not sure what the Admiral was planning, Rol cleaned his hands off before handling it, and privately hoped he'd not have to clean his hands off again after unwrapping it. As Rol unwrapped and examined them, he saw what appeared to be a set of six sided dice made of gold. And they felt like solid gold at that. As Rol examined the pair of dice, Emkir conspiratorially told him the dice were weighted to roll the number "7". While Rol checked out the dice, the pair made jokes about using them. They chatted as Mikah and Aiden stepped out of their staterooms and joined in.
Rol and Emkir were eating by the time the pilot and Knight stepped up for chow. So they were done eating before Aiden and Mikah finished. Once done, Rol started cleaning up and planned to move on to gear maintenance and a physical workout. Emkir headed back into his stateroom to square the space away for liftoff and then write and send thank you's to those who'd attended the wedding or sent gifts. Once Mikah was done eating, she planned to help in engineering. When Aiden was done, he planned to light up the bridge and get in contact with the base to update the data his request had generated overnight.
And while Aiden and Mikah finished eating, Inger stepped out of her stateroom while Zach was enjoying the pain as he'd started carefully working out more recently. This was a significant advance in his recovery and he'd found a physical therapy "assist" program in the ship's systems which he could use in his stateroom. So Zach came out of his stateroom well after everyone but Zimzod was out and about. Zimzod wouldn't return from the resort until he'd woken up, checked out of his room and returned to the ship with his gear. Once done with her chow, Inger went down to engineering, as Mikah had done, to volunteer to help.
On the bridge, Aiden called flight ops and got a confirmation his request for departure permissions had been granted. He downloaded that confirmation, along with the details of their scheduled departure flight profile. Because they were headed coreward and a hint spinward to the Brodie system, the issued flight plan was to the Mora system's nadir-coreward quadrant. That designated departure quadrant would only have outbound traffic travelling in it. As he worked on the bridge, Zach eventually joined him, once his work out and breakfast were done.
Library Data: The Brodie System: Brodie (C410468-7 Ni 114 M1 III M7 D) Brodie is a small moon with a trace atmosphere and no fluids or icecaps covering its surface, which had been colonized from the neighboring Rorise system. Key transit points in-system are the Class C starport and the four gas giants. Authority in-system only exists within the confines of the port. Outside that station, the population consists of a sparse scattering of Mineral and freelance Hydrogen miners. The port has a posted warning that ship's captains should beware of dealing with unregulated vessels, as there have been some attacks after ship's docked with those claiming to be providing services. The system's trade indicators showed Brodie as Non-Industrial as well as Barren. As a result, common imports range from food to small quantities of tech goods and novelties. Entertainment goods are also popular in amounts appropriate for a system population of ten thousand. Manufactured goods are only rarely purchased as the port has a standing supplier in the Rorise system for repair and replacement parts. The system's trade indicators show Brodie as Non-Industrial as well as Barren. As a result, common imports range from food to small quantities of tech goods and novelties. Entertainment goods are also popular in amounts appropriate for a system population of ten thousand. Manufactured goods are only rarely purchased as the port has a standing supplier for repair and replacement parts. The System's General Description The main world of the system is a small rock moon orbiting one of the four in-system gas giants and center of a system's population of about 10,000 permanent residents. The C Class port sells fuel, refined from the gas giant it also orbits. The system's population largely works the port, with a small population of miners working either the planetoid belt in-system or mining hydrogen from the gas giant's atmosphere.
There was nothing there of interest for any of the crew and they had Duke Leonard's papers, which meant they wouldn't have to pay for the privilege of passing through.
From Brodie, the crew planned to jump for the interdicted Gerome system, which Zach and Zimzod were interested in. As a rumored "homeworld" of the Dryone race, Zach would have loved to have not only visited, but landed to learn what they knew of the Ancients and the toys they left behind? Sadly, while they had access to that system, it was limited to arriving at the spatial coordinates published by the Imperial Navy. And any flight plans were based on those broadcast by the interdiction satellites. Anyone who deviated from that was taken under fire with little or no warning and it was rumored commanders often had the authority to question any survivors before executing them. But for now, Zach just needed to plot the jump to the Brodie system.
The crew eventually manned and worked at their stations or relaxed in the crew lounge, and Zimzod arrived with his gear and squared everything away before standing ready for anything he could help with. His morning had gone as smoothly as possible, largely thanks to his military past and Shisema's work and employee connections. When the couple had parted, she returned to what remained of her vacation while he returned to his irregularly scheduled life. So, soon enough, Zimzod was inspecting the ship's gunnery positions.
As he did this, anyone with any of the skills needed in engineering were working with Aali and Wall-e on pre-launch work. Aiden was working with the flight control offices as Emkir worked to get out the lot of thank you cards for the gifts received. Zach prepared to plot their jump out and gathered data from flight ops for the math. The port was surprised the crew planned to head for the Brodie system as, those with jump-4 capability usually travelled the x-Boat route. Brodie was part of a trace more normally frequented by small traders with Jump 1 or 2 capabilities. While the others worked, Rol prepared his gear as, essentially, ship's troops. It was not at all likely in the Mora system, but in the event there were borders, he was "on".
By 11:30 on the 261st day of 1112, the ship and crew were ready, the computers loaded and the clearances filed. As they lifted for the jump point, Mikah set up messages thanking Arch Duke Norris and Grand Duchess Delphine for their hospitality and Aali penned a quick letter home to her parents. Then the crew work at their various jobs for the couple of hours required to burn for the 100d limit. Zach spent some of the time after finishing the jump plot writing those he'd made contacts with and giving them a heads up that he was headed for the Rhylanor system.
After several hours prep time, working at ship's tasks or personal items, they reached zero vee at the jump point. Keeping with tradition, Aiden dimmed the lights as he announced the jump over 'all ship'. He then activated the jump drives as they tumbled into jump space. Never 100% sure, the crew all paused as the sensation of transition passed over them. When nothing immediate went wrong, they set to their scheduled or personal tasks.Settling Into The Week in Jump
Once in jump, Aiden planned to practice his nav work while also taking care of gear maintenance. Outside that, he planned to read, watch vids and relax. He also decided to take advantage of the space in the cargo bay to practice his sword work during the week. Zimzod based his days around gear maintenance and physical workouts, and planned to see what he could read from Sir Brian's books? Zach was also starting to do workouts as his physical condition improved. He could even try walking up and down the main passages of the ship without any support except the walls. Zach planned to very carefully read some of Sir Brian's books and established that everyone who did should use medical gloves provided by Mikah. This would protect the books against accidents.
Mikah planned ahead as she worked on her gear. She cleaned and prepared all of her various weapons as she figured the Duke might need them for combat once they returned to Rhylanor. She spent the week hanging out, relaxing and trying not to think about the various scenarios they were likely to face. Like Ms. Vik, in between relaxing and other things, she handled her share of work helping Aali in engineering. Aali had the most significant work schedule, managing Wall-e and anyone who volunteered as she worked on the ship's systems. On her free time, the engineer read from the downloads she'd collected from Duke Leonard's library.
Emkir spent his time investigating the various books from Sir Brian's collection which had not been written in Galanglic. Especially those that were considered written from lost languages. Taking a cue from the rest of the crew as they discussed the likely events on their return to Rhylanor, Emkir did gear maintenance as well as prompting Aali to do so too. Aali also turned her new combat armor and parts over to Rol to work on, as he'd agreed to do at Frank's Armory. Rol planned to work on her armor as well as Ms. Vik's while also doing his own gear maintenance and keeping up with his physical workouts. Of course, because she'd asked first, Rol got started on Ms. Vik's first.
To relax, Rol also considered writing down not only those recipes which were favorites aboard the ship, but some of those he personally enjoyed and those he wanted to try. As he played with the idea in his mind, Rol first joked with himself about writing a combined "cookbook and memoirs", given the amount of both fame and notoriety he had at the moment. He also considered that he could put all his notes down and look for a publisher and ghost writer in Rhylanor or some other port down the line. Eventually, Rol decided, "Maybe a cookbook. Not memoirs."
The 264th day of the year opened in much the same way the others had in jump. For Emkir, things started to take a turn when he realized he was starting to establish character groups from the glyphs in which the text of the book he was working with were written! He'd started by using his Ident to snap pictures of pages to feed into the ship's library data. Sadly, this was a military vessel, and somewhat stripped down at that, as it had been spare when Duke Leonard "loaned it to them". So when he did a "scan and compare", the computer found nothing to match those glyphs. Emkir also tried to merge some of the data he got from Duke Leonard's library into the ship's library, but there were various issues with that and so his results from that were also empty.
As he worked with character frequency charts and identified like groupings and repetitive "word" arraignments, Emkir realized he was getting a sense of organization! Seeing this, Emkir put more effort into the task as Aali also spent a great deal of time working in engineering. Aali was the first to notice the extra effort, but soon others also noticed. Zimzod was using the galley table space to lay out disassembled weapons and constantly had to share space with Emkir. The Admiral carefully managed the book, along with a number of datapad's he used to organize his data or to take pictures of those pages he was working on.
Zach and Rol also noticed Emkir's work. Especially when he attempted to continue it at meals! This got everyone's attention and Mikah put her foot down, threatening to restrict his access to the book. Emkir backed off, especially when Zimzod started to add pressure given how rare the book was. So he only brought some of his datapads with pictures and notes to meals. This further prompted Mikah to make sure he was cleaning his datapads off before returning to work on the book. When some in the crew made jokes about it which were half funny and half concerned, Aali swore he wasn't bringing the work to bed. Even Emkir sparked up that he had "some priorities". Trying to share in the work early on, Zach asked about the book and even took a look at it as Emkir worked.
But to Zach, it was just a bunch of unintelligible but less then random markings on page after page. Taking ten minutes as Emkir worked away at his datapads, Zach looked through the book to see if there was anything of meaning he could find? A quick but careful flutter through the pages showed a number of what looked like printed hand drawings rather than electronically captured or created graphics. Some were landscapes of some world which could have been in any number of systems he'd visited or seen. Some pictures were of aliens which could have been animals or lesser races for all Zach knew. So Zach set the book back down and asked Emkir about his progress? When he was asked if he'd worked out the title, Emkir admitted he didn't have any word translations. Eventually, Zach let him work but checked in over the week in jump. Even Rol wondered at the book's title as Emkir devoted some work to matching patterns in the text to the title.
By the middle of the week, those working on gear maintenance were largely done, except of course, the former Marines. Rol did have some extra time, so he surveyed the ship's supplies. Emkir devoted that much more time to his translating. Mikah hit on the idea of turning off the gravity in the cargo bay to do zero-g practice drills. When she talked about this, she was able to enlist Zimzod's help. When Aali asked about what the crew might do together, Mikah invited her to join them. For exercise, if nothing else, Aali decided to join the zero-g drills, and suggested Emkir should too. Emkir regretted the work lost, but agreed to take part.
As they started to talk about who would be involved and who had prior training, it came out that Emkir had no zero-G training at all. It was pointed out that the experience would be good, as Emkir would at least know what to expect if the gravity went out rather than being caught completely unprepared when things got bad. Hearing that, Inger also volunteered to join in on the sessions. While never done working on gear, Zimzod did find some extra time to start looking into the books left behind by Brian. But he kept away from those with alphabets and languages he didn't know. Near the end of the expected week in jump space, Aiden returned to the bridge for one of his periodic instrument checks. As he ran over the various displays, he even checked those instruments which should have zero readings.A Surprise In Nothing
As Aiden was checking the bridge systems, he discovered an alert which he tracked back to the ship's sensors! Since their sensors couldn't see out of the "bubble" while in jump space, Aiden was surprised by the ping. But even as he checked the system, the hit had faded. Digging in deeper, and pulling the sensor log, Aiden began trying to see what the hell had registered? When he could find nothing other than the expected jump-static, Aiden began a full diagnostic while digging into the logs to try to duplicate the hit in simulation.
After an hour's time, Aiden was no closer to an explanation than he'd been before. In fact, when the sensor diagnostics came back as "all clear", he was even further from an answer than he'd been. Knowing it was a long shot, Aiden secured the bridge and his data and went looking for Zach. Trying to be sure not to raise an un-needed alarm, Aiden was very generic as he asked Zach to come to the bridge because he, "needed the navigator's opinion on something."
Once on the bridge, Aiden began explaining what he'd seen and explaining to Zach what data he'd found in the logs. Zach looked back confused, as Aiden was the best sensor tech on the ship. He wondered what Aiden wanted from him? Aiden said he hoped Zach, as a trained astrogator, knew of some jump space quirks which could explain the sensor blip. Both men knew the sensors shouldn't be able to see anything outside a bubble that extended ten feet or so from the hull.
Both men recalled the news from Terra, now more than a year old, about Commander Ansel Churner being the first survivor of jump sickness and neither wanted to try to become the second, or fail in the attempt. Meanwhile, it was Zach's turn to ask Aiden to explain just what the "blip" was, according to the sensors? Aiden said one of the sensors pinged something within the local light second. And that could be as far as nearly 300 thousand Kilometers, there was a lot of space to consider. But it was also a lot more space than the ten foot bubble, which was supposed to be the limit to their visibility. Even with military grade systems!
When Zach asked which of the sensors the ping had come from, Aiden admitted the energy bands were a mess and he hadn't worked that out yet. He was hoping not to panic anyone without need but he was considering calling Aali to help him work the data out. Before calling the engineer, Aiden decided to check the ship's comms for any traffic it might have recorded? He figured any odd energy pulses which might have been misread by the sensors might have also shown up on the comms. But they were clean, so there was no help there.
And as Aiden was looking for the logical, Zach was starting to think down paths of logic less true to the "recognized universe". He certainly remembered reading about encounters with the Terran Naval Ship Navarino while searching for Sir Fruenelle's yacht "Frua Cesica". While those incidents had been reported in "the abyss" between the Ivendo and D'Ganzio systems, there was at least one claimed report of encountering the lost TNS Navarino. According to the research available, that vessel was listed as lost in the 'Third Interstellar War', fought between the Terran Confederation and Vilani Empire in -2362 (According to the calendar of the Third Imperium).
As Aiden worked to refine the data, Zach said he'd be back and went to grab some holo-books from his stateroom. While the merchant was off the bridge, Aiden decided to call Aali and comm'd down to engineering. In that section, Inger and Wall-e were working with Aali as the call came in. Again, Aiden just asked her to step up to the bridge as he wanted her opinion on something. Aali told Inger she'd be right back before leaving, and arrived just as Zach was returning. He just told her to step in as he saw her buzzing the entry panel and waiting.
Once they were all on the bridge, Aali asked Aiden what was up and Aiden explained what had happened. Once done explaining how the impossible had happened, Aiden asked the engineer to do a more complete diagnostic on the sensor systems than he could? Not the first impossible thing she'd encountered recently, Aali first worked with Aiden to see if they could figure out which sensor device the reading had come from? Then, to see if they could refine the data? Eventually, with Aali's help, they figured out the sensor involved was the densometer. This device was used to "read" an entire object's internal structure by detecting its mass and then determining any anomalies inherent inside it, like open spaces for crew.
Once she and Aiden better confirmed that the sensors "thought" they'd seen something it couldn't have, Aali jumped right into the diagnostic tests. And as she worked, Zach began presenting his theory along with the appropriate holograms and projected data. As Zach suggested this was not a sensor malfunction and talked about ghost ships and legends, Aali was more certain there was a firm scientific explanation. Her bet was that someone had managed to develop something which could communicate in, or scan, jump space and the sensors had "reacted" to an energy pulse from that. As she was asked, and explained her feelings, Aali also suggested they had no idea who might be watching. She also suggested that, perhaps, they should man the weapon couches when they emerged from jump.
Given the recent nature of the war, and not knowing where naval patrols might be at any given time, both Zach and Aiden disagreed strongly until she made it clear they would not have the targeting and acquisition systems active, or the weapons hot. As Zach pushed his theory, and Aali returned to her diagnostics, the readings started coming back and showing all systems performing as expected. Soon enough, Aali certified the sensors were operating properly based on those tests she could run. This didn't help answer any of the questions as Zach support being built for his theory that they'd possibly encountered a detectible ghost ship or derelict.
During the hour they'd worked with no answers, Zach had tried to convince Aali of his theories, since Aiden was still not open to the fantastic. As Aali began to dive in deep, she asked Aiden if it could be a shadow of their own ship somehow? Aiden told her there wasn't enough space inside the jump bubble for that to happen. While they discussed that, Ms. Vik called the bridge to check if everything was alright, as Aali thought she'd be right back when she left. Aali told Inger everything was fine as Aiden opened some files on the ship's systems to dump his data to. Once Aali was off the comms, he said she should return to engineering as he was taking this to the captain.Investigating The Anomaly
With Aali on her way back to continue her work, Aiden and Zach went to the crew lounge and Lady Mikah. When he found Mikah, she was relaxing, watching vids and not in the mood for that to be spoiled. But as the pilot asked for a bit of her time, she saw the look on his face and paused the vid, with a muttered complaint. When she asked Aiden what was happening, he dove right in. Aiden started explaining the sensor hit and having Aali run those diagnostics they could. Mikah was also aware the sensors shouldn't "see" anything in jump. So she sat up and started looking at the data Aiden was pulling up on a terminal.
As she read into the data, Aiden explained the densometer readings and also mentioned Zach's theories. When he commented on Zach's theories, Mikah couldn't help but burst out laughing for a few beats before regaining control. Not to be scoffed at, Zach stepped in and gave Mikah the same survey-level class on his evidence for such phenomena in the Spinward Marches he'd given the others. While Mikah didn't really take it seriously, she listened to see what might possibly be of use or not? And while he could see she wasn't taking it seriously, he noted Zimzod wasn't laughing as he sat and listened.
While Mikah digested the data and suggestions, Aali had a second thought as she returned the engineering section. She comm'd the bridge and suggested Aiden try going on active sensors, to see if they had any more unexplained hits. She then waited for the pilot's response, but he was in the ship's crew lounge. Aali waited a good bit before recalling he'd been preparing to talk to Mikah. Once she saw her mistake, Aali apologized to Ms. Vik and said she had to return to Aiden as she had some additional thoughts on their discussion. Coming on the heels of having found the Derchon files on the Aspirant Endeavor, this had unsettled Aali quite a bit.
As Inger and Wall-e worked, Aali went up-ship to find Aiden, Zach and Mikah talking in the crew lounge. Once there, Aali listened to Zach's information again. While Mikah didn't find much worth considering, the merchant noticed, like Zimzod, Aali wasn't laughing. Aali followed him up, suggesting a full sensor scan, and Aiden was inclined to agree with her. With Mikah's approval, Aiden, Aali and Zach went back to the bridge along with Zimzod, who wanted to learn more about what was happening. Once on the bridge, the others watched as Aiden ran a full-spectrum scan to the complete power settings he could.
As they watched and waited, Aiden completed the work and they examined the results. And those were completely dead. They talked about possibly customizing the scan, to enhance the power, and Aali said they could try if they wanted to head out on the hull? After a brief discussion about being that close to, and unprotected from, the jump field, there were no volunteers. They then discussed doing a more detailed diagnostics on the ship's systems and it was clear they could only do so much before risking a misjump. With Zimzod having joined them, Zach brought him into the discussion, to see if there was anything he was aware of or new?
When Zach showed him the scan data, Zimzod had no idea what he was looking at. As they discussed what they knew, Zimzod admitted he had read a number of legends, but was only adding more anecdotal data to Zach's suggestions. Once they'd tested and talked the issue out, Aiden's theory was that they'd run into some anomaly in jump space that was either stationary, or had come close enough to for there to have been some effect on the sensors. Aali was not ready to sign on that theory, but she wasn't disputing it either. Her position, lacking data, was to keep watching and recording until they knew more.
When that seemed to fall short of the other's hopes, she said this "suggested" the idea that someone might have developed some sort of scanner that tracked ships in jump space. And while that was only the most bare guess at a theory, Aali suggested they might want the ship's weapons manned when they emerged from jump? As those around her started to react, she tamped things down by making it clear she didn't mean having the targeting system hot. Zach said he didn't feel anything was following them, so he wasn't worried about where they might arrive. Aiden pointed out that, even if they'd been scanned, there was no way to guess where they were headed.
In the end, Aiden decided he'd spend more time on the bridge to keep an eye on things and record as much data as he could. Zimzod didn't say it to the others, but planned to have the weapons active on emergence. But he'd be sure not to have the targeting systems hot. Zach committed himself to research on anything like this in his past research and notes. Aali joined with Aiden in saying they'd keep watching. Once they decided what they each wanted to do, they also agreed to write up the "official reports" for submission to the IISS on the sensor hit. That was left to Aiden, as the systems expert. Aali would add her certifications on the system functionality, but that would be the limit of her work other than adding her name with the others as witnesses.
When they discussed the investigation scope, Aiden pulled all the logs, which started when they'd been given the ship and the original logs were cleared. He wondered if, perhaps, they'd show anything that might have affected their first jump out of Rhylanor, which might answer questions about their misjump? Of course, he doubted that because the Naval techs in the Fosey System had found nothing. The rest of them then set up a schedule to man the bridge and decided to tell the rest of the crew what was going on.
And that night at dinner, Zach stood up as he got everyone's attention and started explaining what Aiden had seen. They explained what the sensor ping meant, and how impossible it was to "see" something outside the jump bubble. As this was sinking in, Inger muttered "Great. Now it's not just every fucking planet." Aali caught the remark and said they'd gotten away from the last planet pretty good. But Aiden said, "Yes, and we're obviously paying for that now." Rol asked if they could perhaps turn back to return to the area of space and see if the ping repeated itself? When he was told they couldn't, he asked if there were crew qualified in the sciences involved?
When they said there were those experienced but not University qualified field experts, Rol suggested all they could do was document the event and move on. Not seeing anything else they could do, he was curious why so much time and energy was being wasted on something they couldn't do anything about? Zach made it clear, they only intended to document what they had and man the bridge to keep watch for further incidents.
When Emkir asked if they were going to man the bridge 24 hours each remaining day, Zach invited him to do so if he wanted. Zach pointed out they only needed to man the bridge a few hours at a time, from time to time checking and recording data from the logs. But Aiden pointed out Emkir could continue to work on his book translations on the bridge as easily as anywhere else on the ship. With those decisions made, Aali set the sensors to alarm their various quarters and the ship's main public spaces if there were any hits while in jump space.
Aiden committed to spending some hours on the bridge as did Zach, and Emkir planned to spend much of his time on the bridge as he worked on the book. So the result was that they eventually had the bridge covered nearly 24 hours a day. The engineering work was coming along with Aali, Wall-e, Mikah and Ms. Vik handling the work and doing maintenance. As the crew carried through their day, they eventually got the computer warning the jump system was about to dump the final surge to the drives before they emerged into normal space.    Sunday, 268-1112: Arriving And Planning Visits In The Brodie System
Handling a shift at 6am ship time, Zach received the alarm and announced, on the all ship, that they were about to emerge. Other than Zach, Rol was the only other person awake, having gotten up to cook breakfast. Eventually, Aiden and Emkir joined Zach on the bridge, the math said they were plus or minus thirty percent off the hourly estimate for when they'd emerge, which wasn't bad. Aiden brought his vacc suit and suited up to be safe. Emkir also had his vacc suit on, but not fully sealed.
Zimzod geared up into his battledress and headed for the ship's starboard laser turret, "just in case". Considering manning a turret, Zach realized he was much too tired and headed for his stateroom to grab sleep as Aiden took over the bridge. Aali decided joined the flight crew on the bridge. Both to monitor engineering, and to be ready in case they needed to deploy the nuclear weapons. While she didn't mention this to Emkir as she dressed, she considered the odd passage and wondered if something was waiting for them? Ms. Vik and Mikah dressed and planned to head for the ship's engineering section to work with Aali.
Rol cut his daily routine short to put a vacc suit on before heading out to cook a quick breakfast. Still, he brought his gauss rifle and other gear. After that, he'd move his gear to the ship's common lounge to be ready in the event he was needed. As everyone on the ship was in motion or at stations, the ship made a normal transition into real space and the crew on the bridge began fighting the sensor-haze to check the area for hazards and confirm their location.
When the haze faded and the sensors started coming back on line, Aiden hit reverse thrust at one quarter power, just in case the paranoia was real this time. As they back thrusted and the sensor-haze faded, those on the bridge saw the patterns of expected traffic emerge on the sensors. The crew breathed a sigh of relief as they saw what appeared to be normal merchant and civilian traffic with no hazards or surprises. Having plotted a jump to the Brodie system, they'd targeted the gas giant, further out than the mainworld. This was because the gas giant the mainworld orbited was closer in on a red star, forcing more than a days' time cruising in-system.
Still, Aali and her assistants would have time to reset the ship's systems while they cruised in to the gas giant and purified hydrogen from its atmosphere. As the crew secured their weapons and stations to settle in for the transit, the sensors reported a 1,000 dTon hit moving very slowly and essentially across their flight path! As Aiden commented on it and called Mikah to let her know, Zach waited for the external comms to clear. Once he done with that, Aiden waited as the systems comms traffic started arriving.
Checking the details on his scanners before setting the comms to try to call the mystery ship, Aiden was listening to, and capturing, the chatter of comms warnings and noticed what the system's arrival beacons were spitting out. Just as he'd got the data he wanted to set up a call to the unknown ship, the arrival beacon's data announced the gas giant was guarded by system's defense boats, and gave the emergency frequency to reach them. After reversing the thrust and vector of the ship to start moving in-system, Aiden used the comms data to contact the sensor hit and confirmed it was a local SDB.
Knowing the frequency was to be used in emergencies, Aiden led with his strengths by identifying them as the Sable Addix, on detached duty under the orders of Duke Leonard of Rhylanor. At the distances that separated them, each signal took minutes to pass between. When the SDB asked how they could assist the Addix, Aiden said they were just making a run on the gas giant to re-fuel. On response, he was asked to transmit their credentials and the Duke's orders. Some minutes later, he got a signal from Khadak di-Lenka-Actual requesting to speak to Sable Addix-Actual!
Realizing he had the captain of the SDB on the line, Aiden comm'd Mikah, who was working in engineering. When Mikah answered and asked how she could help the other captain, he offered to help them in support of the Duke's orders. He said that, if they could match vee, he could fill their tanks with purified fuel from his own tanks! Mikah was pleased and told Aiden to work with the bridge crew of the Khadak di-Lenka to link up.
As Aiden began working and the word was spread they'd be docking with the SDB to receive fuel, Zach asked about the protocol for reporting the sensor anomaly? Aiden said they should report this to Imperial authorities and the Khadak di-Lenka was only a local vessel. He did say they could mention it to the ship's captain, but not over comms. Aiden also considered a gathering of crew from both ships, but knew he'd have to work that invitation out with Mikah if she approved.
As they closed with the ship and brought their vector in line with the Khadak di-Lenka, those on the bridge realized the ship was not just a simple defense boat. She was a 1,000 ton armed ship tender. While well enough armed, the ship had enough storage to assist vessels in the region of the gas giant who would not be able to get help from the mainworld. Since most of the traffic in this part of the system scooped fuel from the gas giant, it was worth the world's while to have tenders operating near the gas giants. In the end, they found there were always four such tenders passing around each gas giant on month's long tours. The Khadak di-Lenka was three months out from their launch. As Aiden digested what they knew of the di-Lenka's mission, he considered that Ms. Vik would have enough attention if they had a crew mixer.Tea And Technical Visitors
Soon enough, they matched vectors and the fueling crews of Khadak di-Lenka began connecting umbilical's to start the fueling process. While this happened, Aiden and Aali were told it would take them just over an hour to pump the tanks full. Aiden was also told they should give the ship's engineers enough time to reset after their last jump before jumping out again. Confirming with Aali, Aiden listened as she told the other engineer she'd prefer four days of work to reset the systems properly.
The officer commanding di-Lenka's bridge at the time said that, based on the Duke's orders and those of his captain, they were invited to freely visit between ships and share in what supplies they had. As Aiden accepted on behalf of his crew, they also admitted they'd enjoy the company. When Aali asked Aiden if he thought they could request some technical help to dig into their sensors, Aiden asked if they were going to just ask or if they wanted to explain what happened? Checking with Mikah, the Knight decided to handle it and comm'd over to the captain to ask for the help. She also told him, in private conversation, that they had a few things that happened during their last jump she wanted to talk about.
Intrigued, the Captain invited Mikah aboard, and she went as the first member of the Addix crew to visit the di-Lenka. But the environment aboard that ship was spartan at best. Every space was very clean, but when they sat down, the Captain didn't even offer her caff of any kind. Realizing their ship must be operating on very limited supplies, ironic given they were a tender, she invited the Captain to join her aboard the Sable Addix.
Once they crossed back, Mikah called Aali to join them as she started sharing their supplies. Not only did she share with him items they had limited quantities of under the di-Lenka's rationing system, but she pulled out snack foods they could never get for his ship. After settling down with snacks and caff, Mikah explained what they'd experienced in the jump. While the man had heard stories from other spacers, the truth was he had never been in jump space. His vessel was a slow-moving in-system tender only. She had no jump drive, and was only a tender.
He'd worked on one tender or another all his life as he rose to the Captain's rank. But he could give her no answers or advice. He did offer his techs to help check out the scanners. Mikah considered locking the pantry and said they really didn't have space for that many techs, as the man could see. He said he'd invite over his Chief Engineer and Number Two only. Mikah approved that and, when the officers came over, Aali called Aiden and they worked as a team looking at the sensor data and systems. Both Aali and Aiden were disappointed at the lack of interstellar experience and skills the officers had. And after a few hours, they couldn't add anything to what Aali and Aiden had.
As they shared space, Zach offered updates to the tender's entertainment systems and also wanted to see if they had anything they could copy back to the Addix? When Zach discussed that with their First Officer, the man was interested in some of their food stores. But that was something the crew had paid for and were not gonna give away. As the officers working on the sensor data announced they couldn't come up with anything, Mikah decided to be gracious and invited the officers to stay for dinner.A Few Days Visiting
Over the next few days, the di-Lenka loaned them engineers. While they were tied alongside, Zimzod crossed to the other ship for a change of scenery and found himself followed everywhere he went. While Mikah was a Knight too, her visit was "Captain to Captain", and everyone kept their head down. Now "Sir" Zimzod was boarding to be friendly and meet folks. So the average crew could ask questions, and one even asked Zimzod if it were true they were organizing an invasion force? When Zimzod asked, "Invasion what?" in a confused and surprised tone, he learned there was a rumor that the knights had arrived in order to raise a huge Imperial fleet and finish off the invasion of the Sword Worlds once and for all.
Zimzod said he'd never heard anything about something like that. In fact, he repeated what he'd heard of Arch Duke Norris' desire to settle things down and restore trade. He didn't go out of his way to hide his direct connection to the Arch Duke but didn't tell the man he knew Norris either. Zimzod did his best to make it clear he'd not heard of such an effort and the Arch Duke just wanted peace and trade. The crewman was surprised to hear this, and thanked Zimzod before heading off to consider the news. And likely spread it too.
Zach also crossed over to the other ship, using a set of canes and other supports as he used the opportunity to broaden his work out. At first, he was asked about his activities during the war, as they thought he'd served with the knights. When Zach explained he'd been a trader, they asked about his experience and how Zach had ended up as injured as he had? Obviously, Zach was not really into telling stories about how he got himself shot, especially as those stories would also mention the Quasar Viper. In the end, his lack of piratic stories or tales of adventure disappointed them as they'd expected stories to match the rumors told about the knights and their crew.
Eventually, Zach was able to reach the ship's purser to discuss trading entertainment titles, and the officer approved the idea. They then had to set up a data link connection between the two ships, only Aali didn't have the time for that, herself, until the end of the third day. Once the connection was set up, the actual work took less than ten minutes from listing titles to comparing the mismatches and copying data back and forth. As expected, they had a lot to give the tender, but at the same time, there were older and more regional titles which the Sable Addix didn't have either. So the swap was good news for both crews.
After four days of work, Aali pronounced the Sable Addix ready to move on. The crew said their goodbyes as Aiden began the burn out-system and Zach began the jump plot for the interdicted Gerome system. This time, Zach would target the emergence coordinates given by Duke Leonard's people as emergence anywhere else might be responded to with weapons fire. As they cast off from the Khadak di-Lenka, the duty officer wished them well and asked where their next stop was? When Aiden said it was the Gerome system, he was not ready for the reaction that drew.
The bridge crew of Khadak di-Lenka reacted as if this were a bomb, saved to drop on them at just the right moment. As questions came at Aiden, he explained it was just the path the Duke wanted them to take and they confirmed he was aware why the world was interdicted? When Aiden asked what they'd heard, he was told Gerome's mainworld was rumored to be one of those which was possibly the Dryone homeworld. As this spun up and the Captain, who was on comms with Mikah, was brought into the conversation, they said they wanted to verify the crew had the proper authorizations and permissions. As Aiden reminded them of the orders they'd already checked from Duke Leonard, Mikah said it wasn't a big deal. She also said she'd confirmed that "while talking to Arch Duke Norris" before leaving the Mora system.
This verbal carpet bombing left a moment of silence in the conversation as everyone on the di-Lenka side of the comms adjusted their mental settings. As questions came up about the Arch Duke and Mora, Mikah recommended they contact sales in the Mora system to buy vids of Aali and Emkir's wedding, at which the Arch Duke presided. With that, Zach loaded his plot into the computer as Aiden piloted the ship out to zero vee at the jump coordinates. Once there, they held for a short amount of time as they checked their papers and certifications one last time before Aiden dimmed the lights and activated the jump engines.    Thursday, 272-1112: Making The Jump To Gerome
Once they settled into Jump, Rol went back to working on gear and physical workouts. When he had free time, Rol took part in the zero-g workouts Mikah and Zimzod were running. Emkir reminded Rol of the hand-to-hand fighting class he'd taught in the Jae Tellona system and asked if Rol would run more such classes? When Rol said he would, Emkir asked Aali if she wanted to join in on that and the Zero-g work? Aali decided to join in both. Emkir was also going to continue work on translations more, but he would get out of the chair more too.
When Mikah heard Emkir ask about the brawling classes, she said she figured she could teach a class too. In her free time, Mikah also planned to catch up on medical journals. In addition to engineering work and taking part in the brawling and zero-g work, Aali wanted to finally crack open the files from the Aspirant Endeavor and look at what they held. Not sure what she'd find, Aali first spent a day organizing the messages by subject and time-stamp. One thing she was certain of was that all the files were classified and none of them should have still been on that computer!
In addition to playing zero-G, Zimzod ripped apart the .45 he got from Brian's possessions and did a complete clean and maintain. He also did workouts and spent some time reading through some of Brian's books. Aiden spent a few hours a day monitoring the bridge and checking the logs even though they had the sensors set to report ship-wide if there was anything unusual. He also made the time to get in on the Zero-G workouts as they became less of "training" and more of a free-for-all game. And while there was never a set of rules, or even a concrete way to score points, everyone knew when someone scored and everyone wanted to win. Aiden also set aside time to sit and read as well as practicing with his sword.
Zach spent more time going over Brian's books while increasing his workouts where he could. As Zach spent his time reading, he found a book of legends from a world which appeared to be along the great rift and decided to read it. As he read through the book, he came on several chapters specifically on legends from the early days of jump technology in their system. As he read the chapters, there were many theories discussed. Also, there were allegoric stories on the theoretic interaction of ships in individual jump bubbles as they travelled to and from the same systems. Zach found that interesting, not because of the shared course, but because of the apparent reports of phenomena similar to what they experienced. Once he'd read through the chapters, Zach decided to bring it to Aiden's attention as evidence of his theories.    Sunday, 275-1112: Less Remaining Jump And More Zach
It was midday, three days into jump, that Zach brought the book to Aiden to show him what he'd found. Aiden looked over the ancient looking book very carefully and tried not to even breath on it. But Zach was adamant the stories supported the theories he'd mentioned during the previous jump. As Aiden read the sections Zach pointed out, he saw the data were largely organized notes and reports from a world which had been recontacted after the long night. Having significant lanthanum deposits on-world, the resurgent Third Imperium promised to teach them to build starships in order to get access to the metal.
Once that world's scientific community got educated on jump science, they started a significant amount of research into jump physics, as it was new to them. While the methods discussed were not always scientific, the editors did their best to report the data as correctly as possible. Aiden had issues with the fact their reports were based on ships leaving one system and arriving at another system at the same time. No one was travelling from and to the same systems along with them.
Not giving up, Zach said that the writing proved others had seen similar phenomena, even if they were under different conditions. In the end, Aiden was not impressed and told Zach to feel free to bring it to the captain. After Zach left, saying he would, Aiden could see the results of that conversation coming and wanted to be sure to be on the other side of the ship when it happened. Zach went looking for either Zimzod or Aali before going to Mikah. In the crew lounge, Zach found Zimzod, and tried to talk softly as Mikah was also reading in the lounge.
Zach pointed out the chapters he'd shown Aiden and Zimzod took the book to see what the Merchant was on to. Zimzod checked a few pages before, to see if there was a lead-in, but found they were separate subjects. So he dove into the chapters for a bit, just perusing over the pages before saying he should take this to Mikah as he intentionally set Zach up for a door in the face. While Zach would have preferred to talk to Aali first, in hopes of getting at least one ally, Mikah was in the lounge too, and Zimzod made sure to speak loudly enough that she heard her name and wanted to know what it was Zach had?
As Zach hedged, Mikah encouraged him to show her what he'd found. When he agreed, Zach began explaining what he'd found before Mikah cut him off and told him to leave the book for her to review when she had the chance. But Zach pushed because he preferred to be there to explain and guide interpretation, so he reminded her the data was just in 50 or 60 pages. She still said she preferred to read the book cover to cover, to get a feel for the level of data in each section. She did promise to return the book to him, so he could continue his reading.
Still pushing, Zach said he wanted to show it to Aali, and Mikah said she'd do that. Then Zach said he'd not finished reading the rest of the book and Mikah again promised to return the book to him when she was done with it. As if to punctuate the point, Mikah set aside the journal she'd been reading and headed down to engineering to discuss the chapters with Aali. And after Mikah and Aali skimmed through the chapters together, it seemed fairly obvious the reports were anecdotal at best.
It also seemed to Aali the editor had been part of a culture which had serious doubts about jump-tech. Once again, Zach, who'd followed Mikah, defended the fact that it proved more people had encountered jump related phenomena. Even if it was not a specific match for what they saw. Still, when Zach expected the book back, Mikah reminded him she'd said she was going to read the whole book. Eventually, that effort took the rest of the week, as there were several truly crack-pot sections she had to go over more than once.
Most of the way through the week in jump, Rol finally finished modifications on Inger's combat armor and let her know the gear was ready. Once he was done, Rol tested the systems before calling Ms. Vik to check it out. She tried it on and he stepped her through using the various devices connected to the HUD. The suit had a built-in inertial locator externally mounted to the right wrist. Rol had to open the back of the device and split the data feed wiring. He then ran extension cables up the arm to the already in-built wiring harness the suit had been modified with before she bought it.
After that, he had to sculpt a mounting point for the PRIS goggles and connect the wiring through the composite without violating the sealed armor or it's defensive protection. Finally, he had to re-work the helmet to add and include the HUD. Once that was done, he worked with the wiring and programming to integrate the suit's systems to the HUD. So now the wearer would be able to see the status of their air, power and other in-built system as well as the data from the locator and PRIS. He explained how to use both the inertial locator and the PRIS Goggles.
The locator was simple, showing power, status and direction. Setting the device still required manual work on the wrist control panel. Ms. Vik realized the PRIS goggle feed was only a "straight forward mount" and would not show her anything not in its line of sight. So it could get very messy if the mount were broken and the goggles hung loose by the cabling. Still, it would allow her to not only see in the dark but to separate out the visible in spectrum bands once she got used to them. Inger devoted some hours every day to getting used to interpreting the various bands of visual feedback from the goggles. Thanking Rol, she also paid him Cr 50 for the materials used.
By the end of the week, the zero-g work had turned into a game even Zach could participate in, as a score keeper and color commentary. One of the advantages being in the bay had was that he was not suffering from gravity's effects while in Zero-G. Still, the only description he could make of the game was 'multi-target tag while moving about the cargo bay and avoiding everyone but your target'. So each player would be avoiding other "hunt and tag" teams while chasing their quarry.    Thursday, 279-1112: Arrival In The Gerome System
By the end of the week, Mikah gave Zach back the book only a few hours before they got the alarm for jump-emergence. As they set their tasks aside, secured their gear and took their stations, the ship emerged into normal space. And as the sensor and comms haze faded, they received an order from the local arrival beacon instructing all arrivals to self-identify on the interdiction frequency or face naval fire without further warning. Knowing that all too well, Aiden set the comms frequency and sent their orders from Duke Leonard.
As Aiden waited and worked with Emkir to transition to normal space ops, the voice of a live Naval rating came over the comms and ordered, "You shall assume and not deviate from the course beamed to you in this comms signal. As you fly, you shall prepare to be intercepted and boarded for inspection." Down range, the ship was intercepted by a 300 dTon patrol cruiser which had no jump systems but a large weapons installation and ship's troops compliment. After gathering the ship's crew in the lounge except Aiden and the docking, the ship's troops scoured the ship to an extent not seen by most men from their proctologists.
Once the ship was secured, the troop commander demanded the actual datapad from Duke Leonard. It took fifteen minutes after the datapad was presented for the Lieutenant to clear them. On the bridge, Aiden was really enjoying himself to the utmost as he sat, unable to track what was going on in the ship. This, while watching another ship, this one 300,000 dTons, move in to augment the smaller gunship. Aiden did his best to keep calm as he enjoyed the view of all the pretty lights which were, viewports! Yes! That was It! We'll go with viewports, on the interdiction battleship. In the back of his mind, Aiden could thank the stars it wasn't a Plankwell, though that would only add class to their death if the warship opened up.
Once the crew's papers were cleared, they were instructed to proceed directly to the battleship, where control would be taken remotely to guide them into a bay. Once there, the ship would be serviced by the bay crew and naval engineers. As they left, the Lieutenant and his crew were just as relieved as those aboard the Addix. The Naval veteran's understood that a smaller vessel was always sent in as bait to "test" unexpected arrivals. If the arrival thought, "I'm bigger and I can take the small ship", the bigger ship moved in to blast them to atoms. But only after the shooting began and the smaller craft played target.
Once secured in the battleship, the bay chief and a Lieutenant Commander only wanted to know what they needed in the name of the Duke? Mikah said they only needed to refuel and reset the engineering so they could jump back to Rhylanor and resume their duties for the Duke in-system. As a conservative officer, the Lt. Commander announced the crew would take their ease for the next week as his people worked on their ship. So they could count on jumping out on the 286th day of the year. That meant that, with one jump left, they should be in the Rhylanor system by the 293rd or 294th day.
Letting that sink in, he continued to explain they had free access to their ship and the bay at all times. Additionally, bunks would be made available to them, which were directly accessible from the bay. They also had access to the recreational and food facilities directly connected to those bunk spaces. They would not have access to any other spaces unless escorted and invited or given permission to move. Despite this gracious welcome, some crew chose to stay with the ship.
Mikah and Rol accepted staterooms and Zach was not only granted a stateroom but a medical work up by the ship's medical staff. When Zach happily accepted the medical checkups, with Mikah watching, he made a crack about them having warmer hands than she did and she reminded him he was under her care again once they jumped out. In her mind, Mikah made it a point to keep a stethoscope in the freezer for his next procedure.    Friday, 280-1112: Getting Into The Spirit Of The Visit
The day after they arrived aboard, Mikah decided to pass on the data about the sensor anomaly to the Captain of the battleship, so she could officially submit their report and be done with it. So, in the morning, she gathered the reports from Aiden and Aali, bound it together on a datapad, and made sure all the needed signatures and statements were on it. She then passed it to the Lt. Commander who was their liaison, to handle properly from there. After taking her brief explanation and scanning the data over, the officer assured Mikah he'd take care of it.
At 11:30, Mikah was told the battleship's captain wanted to meet, over lunch, with Lady Mikah, her chief pilot, her chief engineer as well as anyone else who had been involved in investigating the sensor anomaly. Mikah told the others, including Zach, about the summons and then reported to the Lt. Commander to meet with the Captain. The others remained behind and relaxed or joined the work on the ship. Rol enjoyed visits from various sections of the crew as a living awardee of the Starburst for Extreme Heroism.
Once they were escorted to meet with the Captain, he introduced them to his Chief Engineer, that man's Second, several more technicians and the Chief Astrogator with that man's Second too. As they sat, the Captain explained that they were gathered because they'd never had so good a chance to investigate a claim like Mikah and her crew had filed. Too often, the paperwork was either complete or not, but had no log files. Or those files were incomplete or the wrong logs. This was the first time this Captain knew of where they had the reporting crew and the ship in close proximity to the event with a serious investigative team.
As he spoke, they could see the man really was excited about the chance to see their data, including a direct link to the Sable Addix's computer. And once they set the table and agreed to work together, they spent the entire afternoon working on every scrap of data and evidence they could find or develop from the data. As good as Aiden was with sensors, they had a man on their crew who dwarfed him. That technician was even able to find a pizo-variation of the reading they got which actually indicated the hit was moving! But still, by the end of the afternoon, that was all the light they could add to the event.
Besides being able to confirm the crew had actually received a sensor hit in jump, there was no data which could explain this impossible event. As frustrating as that result was, they copied every scrap of data and each report into specific data packages. The Captain then told Lady Mikah they were to deliver one copy of the reports to the office of Admiral Saigacrem. Another copy of the reports would be delivered to Naval Intelligence at an address they had entered on the locked front page of the datapad. Finally, they make a point of stating these events were now classified and compartmentalized. The crew were to discuss this with no one else, not even the Duke.
Mikah was surprised the delivery instructions were not to Lord William or any of the other spooks they'd worked with. When Mikah asked what this Admiral had to do with the issue, they were told his office investigated unexplained phenomena under the heading of Imperial Security. This meant his office was regionally responsible for dispatching forces to explore and investigate these reports. She was also told they were to advise the rest of the crew of the security assignment.
As Mikah agreed, the Captain checked the time and realized it was getting close to dinner. Sitting back with a sigh, he said he'd planned to invite them for dinner later in the week but, since it was almost that time already, they'd might as well have the rest of the crew summoned forward and have the dinner then. As Mikah agreed, the Chief Engineer was already on the comms passing the orders to the bay crew. Orders were also passed to bring in a few more of the ship's senior officers for the dinner. The rest of the crew arrived first and Mikah took the chance to update everyone that the sensor issue was now considered highly classified and not to be discussed with anyone anymore.
Once that was done and the other officers arrived, they had a nice friendly dinner and 'getting to know you' session. This battleship had been in-system for a year, after having had all the action they could have wanted in the Fifth Frontier War. Assigned to a Battle Squadron ( or BatRon ), attached to the rebuilt 100th Imperial Fleet out of Glisten, they'd been part of the campaign that drove coreward into the Sword Worlds, to strike at their home worlds. Ironically, the assault first stopped at the Tarkine system( District 268) and "cleared their skies" before hitting Sword World forces in the Caliburn and Caladbolg systems.
Aiden took extreme pleasure at hearing the officers describe the surprise exhibited by the invaders as heavy Imperial forces returned to the Caladbolg system to kick their asses out. That crew also took pleasure in Sir Aiden's compliments on the operation and showed him respect for his early-war experiences. Passing through that relieved system, they drove up into what were now the "Border Worlds Confederation" to break any chance forward Sword Worlds forces in the Lanth subsector might be reinforced. As "then" Duke Norris was crushing the Zhodani 40th in the Rhylanor subsector, this battleship and its squadrons were being swarmed by every home guard unit that could hit them as they held hostile space.
Along with the fleets which hit the Zhodani Ninjar system, and those who took part in the Riverland campaign, they held the distinct honor of being in the handful of Imperial forces to actually counter-invade enemy home systems. Given that, the crew could understand why the warship's crew were happy guarding a backwater interdicted system. When Aiden commented that the ship seemed to be in great condition, the Captain said Aiden had no idea what percentage of the ship, its systems and crew had to be repaired or replaced. He told Aiden, and them all, that this interdiction mission, so far a year long, was their first mission out of repairs. So they'd managed to return from the Sword Worlds in 1110, with help, and not emerged from dry dock and repairs until 1112. She had been repaired based on her battle honors, as it would have taken less time to build a new battleship.
Once dinner was done, they said their goodbyes and were escorted back to their quarters and ship. From time to time, the Captain or one of the ship's senior officers checked in with them to assure things were proceeding correctly. Once it was time to launch, they sent their compliments to the Duke and his staff along with the crew.    Thursday, 286-1112: Making The Final Jump To Rhylanor
As they burned out of the system, Zach worked on the nav-plot while Aiden and Emkir manned the flight controls. Zimzod and Rol had no real stations as Inger and Mikah helped Aali in engineering. The crew relaxed as they began the flight out, but things got tense quick. Suddenly, the ship got an urgent order to come to zero velocity and hold their position. They were also ordered to scratch their jump plot if one was entered into the computer!
As Aiden's stomach did a power-dive performance and the bridge crew wondered, they spread the word to the rest of the ship and waited for an explanation. As they were advised they'd receive instructions, Aiden and Emkir saw an alert on their board as the all-ship went off, echoing a sensor ping! Aiden began working on the readings, and Zimzod joked to Rol, "But we're not even in jump yet." Aiden's first announcement was that the contact was rising from the atmosphere of Gerome-Prime! This meant it was either IISS or, possibly, a very rare Dryone vessel!
As he worked, Aiden reached out to the battleship, to advise them of events and was told, "Understood. Ignore the contact and hold your position until contacted." in a voice that said 'we already know this, Stupid.' Aiden acknowledged the orders but still went active on the sensors, as that was a general precaution. What little he got back was enough to show the ship was not Human in design! As he looked over the reports, Zach leaned over and saw the densometer reading, saying "That's a Dryone ship!" The merchant was excited, as this was a chance rarely gotten to see a vessel that could be older than Humaniti.
Aiden just reached for the comms as scenarios played out in his mind of how this could go wrong. After Aiden filled Mikah in on what was happening, she asked if it was armed? Aiden said he couldn't tell as Zach asked if it mattered? Mikah made it clear it mattered as Aiden considered a course that would get the battleship between them and the alien. Still, he needed to get the ship's vitals, like it's flight course and if it was opening or closing range? As the pilots did the math, they figured the ship was not closing with them, but they might have had an intercept it if they'd continued on their planned flight course.
Once this was worked out, and Aiden reported the data to Mikah, she told him to relax. Soon, the battleship ordered the crew to hold position until the traffic had cleared the system, which took nearly six hours. After the Dryone had burned out far enough to be clear, they were given the OK to proceed on their original course to their intended jump point, but reminded to recompute their jump plot. With nothing else to do, and not leaving the bridge, Zach had used the excuse that he would "keep the jump plot fresh" while he watched the sensors and data on the alien vessel. Sadly for Zach, they never got close enough to determine if this was a new vessel or a relic.
Once the battleship gave the OK, Zach had enough fresh data that he was able to get right back into plotting a new jump. Aiden resumed the burns as Zach worked and the battleship loomed on their sensors. The Dryone was still a small speck on the sensor readout as they finally made the several hour transit and came to zero vee. Aiden sent a goodbye back to the battleship, dimmed the lights as he announced the jump and then activated the drive.
Once they settled into jump, Aali dove back into the files from the Endeavor, having set that research aside when the sensor ping had happened. Now she had the files organized from work done in the last jump and had tagged and set aside the messages that contained nothing but orders from HQ. This left the ship's status and sensor data to go over. As she dug in, Aali realized one of her former crew mates aboard the Endeavor had been keeping a comprehensive log of the event and capturing data from the sensors. She could see he was also segmenting the log he kept and sending it off-ship. After a few hours checking, Aali realized he had apparently been sending the reports to some kind of beacon that, from her memory, had to have been automated.
Rol returned to working on Aali's armor as he'd finished Inger's armor during the first jump. This project kept him busy in between cooking, his workout routine, relaxing and maintaining his gear. Having started on Aali's armor after turning Inger's over to her, Rol needed to mount a HUD in her armor as well. He had to add a PRIS mount, like he did with Ms. Vik's armor, and had to add the Inertial Locator. As he worked, Aali checked in with him from time to time.
Eventually, as she worked on the Derchon files, Aali realized she needed help. She wanted to work with Aiden on the sensor data at the least, and decided she couldn't 'cherry pick' some of the crew without telling all of the crew. So when they gathered for a meal, Aali got everyone's attention and started to explain the files. First, she reminded Aiden and Emkir that she'd supposedly downloaded her log in data from the Aspirant Endeavor. As she built onto that, she eventually explained how she and her crew had been assigned to gather data on an unknown object which had moved at relativistic speed though also having used jump drives!
When Mikah suggested the engineer was, perhaps, talking to Zach too much, Aali shared out some of the files which she'd spent time sanitizing unnecessary data from. When she was asked why the data was still on the ship's computer, Aali said it appeared to her that no one could access the data but her. She assumed it was because she'd been crew on the ship when the files were created. In the end, the scouts had issues with the ship because they couldn't access or erase something that was stuck in the system. They told her it even remained after they replaced hardware! As some in the crew became doubtful, Aiden and Emkir confirmed hearing those complaints.
Aali ignored, for the moment, the fact that someone would eventually figure out the data was gone and wonder what happened? They were more concerned with not being able to use the ship completely. So she hoped they'd just be pleased that the mysterious data-block would as mysteriously open up. As it was, the vessel was lightly used and mostly a hanger queen. When Rol finally asked if this could be a setup, Aali said that was one of the reasons she felt she needed to tell them what was going on. There was a silence as the crew considered the mounting secrets they were all party to.
As the crew continued their pastimes and work, Rol finished working on Aali's armor and had her test things out before handing it over to her. Aali worked on the ship's engineering systems with Wall-e, Inger and Mikah helping as she also dug into the Derchon files with orders to share and report anything that may be of note. Zimzod and Zach spent time reading through Brian's books as Emkir continued his translation work. Mikah caught up on more medical journals as Ms. Vik caught up on vids and relaxation. Aiden spent some time on the bridge as he read and relaxed. Eventually, they got the emergence warning from the computer and prepared to emerge into normal space.
_________________________________________________________________________ Next: Blasting Back Into Rhylanor